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Jeff Leich - Tales of the 10th
This book is based on the New England Ski Museum's 2000 exhibit on the World War II mountain troops. The exhibit was previously documented in a two-part article that appeared in the NESM newsletter (nesm-2001-win and nesm-2001-spr). This book is substantially similar to the newsletter series, but the selection of photographs is slightly different. In a letter printed in the Summer 2001 NESM newsletter, Bob Bates wrote that this two-part series contained the most accurate account of the "chronological order of when and how events happened in the formation of the 10th Mountain Division" that he had ever seen.

Chapter 1 - Military Skiing Before World War II

p. 6: The author mentions early Scandinavian skiers such as the Birkebeiners, the use of skis by the U.S. Cavalry in Yellowstone in the 1880s, and mountain warfare in the Alps during World War I.

Chapter 2 - The Winter War of 1939-40

p. 13: On November 30, 1939, Russia attacked Finland, hoping perhaps to forestall a future attack by Germany along that route. Despite being vastly outnumbered, the Finns, using a strategy of ski-mounted guerrilla warfare, held off the Russian invasion for several months. In the battle of Suomussalmi, the Finns lost about 15,000 men while inflicting casualties of 36,000 on their Russian enemies. The overpowering Russian advantage could not be stayed forever, and in March 1940 a peace treaty was signed, though the Russians never broke through the Finnish lines.

p. 15: Photo of Finnish ski troops on the move during the Russian-Finnish war of 1939-40.

Chapter 3 - Origins of the US Mountain Troops

p. 16: In 1940, Minnie Dole and Roger Langley offered the services of the National Ski Association (which included the National Ski Patrol) to the War Department. Members of the American Alpine Club also worked to sell the ski troop idea to the army. In December 1940, the army announced plans to keep five divisions in the north for the winter to train ski patrols to travel and live outside in winter conditions.

Chapter 4 - The Winter of 1941

p. 18a: The author summarizes activities of the 44th Division unit at Old Forge, NY, the 1st Division's detachment at Lake Placid, NY, the 6th Division ski patrol in Minnesota, the 5th Division at Camp McCoy, WI, and the 3rd Division and 41st Division ski patrols in Washington, which were led or supported by Lt. John Woodward.

p. 18b: Photo of 3rd Division, 15th Regiment ski patrol standing in a line at Snoqualmie Pass.

p. 19a: Photo of 15th Regiment ski patrol camping at Mt Rainier.

p. 19b: Photo of 41st Division ski patrol climbing toward Anderson Pass in the Olympic Mountains in 1941.

p. 20a: Photo of 41st Division ski patrol traversing Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains in 1941.

p. 20b: Photo of Harold Peebles of the 41st Division ski patrol making a turn with cloud-capped Mt Rainier in the background, 1941.

p. 21: Photos of Walter Prager and Sigi Engl in Sun Valley during filming of The Basic Principles of Skiing in the spring of 1941.

Chapter 5 - Equipping the Mountain Troops

p. 22: The author discusses equipment development by the Office of the Quartermaster General with assistance of members of the American Alpine Club and Sierra Club from 1940 through 1942.

Chapter 6 - The Winter of 1942

p. 31a: The author describes the training of the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment at Paradise during the winter of 1942. At the same time, paratroopers from the 503rd Parachute Batallion from Fort Benning, GA were sent to learn skiing at Alta, UT under Dick Durrance. From these experiences, the army may have concluded that skiers could be trained to be soldiers more easily than soldiers could be taught to ski.

p. 31b: Photo of C Company, 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment, assembling in front of Paradise Lodge, preparing to support the May 1942 test expedition to the summit of Mt Rainier.

p. 33: Don Goodman and Charlie McLane instruct a skiing class at Paradise, probably near the Tatoosh Range.

p. 35: Photo of members of the 87th Regiment training on an artificial climbing wall in the spring of 1942. When the 87th returned to Fort Lewis, Capt. John Woodward ordered construction of three thirty-foot climbing walls built of logs and set up in a gravel pit, so they could continue mountaineering training (p. 45).

p. 42: Photos of the 1942 Columbia Icefield expedition during which the T-15 Weasel was tested.

Chapter 7 - From Paradise to Hale

p. 43: The author discusses the search for a training location for a division-sized force, leading to construction of Camp Hale at Pando, Colorado. The first unit to move to Pando was the Mountain Training Center (MTC), comprising skilled army personnel needed to form the nucleus of the mountain division.

Chapter 8 - Camp Hale 1943

p. 46: This chapter describes mountain troop training at Camp Hale, beginning in December, 1942. There are many fine photos. In late 1942, a cavalry unit called the 10th Reconnaissance Cavalry Troop was transferred from Fort Meade, SD to Camp Hale. Plans for the cavalrymen to learn skiing were eventually abandoned and the unit was transformed into the Mountain Training Group's 10th Reconnaissance (10th Recon/MTG), staffed by the best skiing and climbing instructors in the 10th.

p. 61: A photo caption describes Walter Prager as a three-time winner of the Arlberg-Kandahar Race, "once the most important prize in skiing."

Chapter 9 - To Kiska and Back

p. 70: In the summer of 1943, the 87th Regiment was shipped to the Aleutian island of Kiska to evict the occupying Japanese. Unknown to the division, the Japanese force had left before their arrival. In the fog and confusion of the first night of the invasion, several patrols of the 87th fired on each other, causing the division's first combat casualties.

At Camp Hale, the Mountain Training Center was absorbed into the new 10th Light (Pack, Alpine) Infantry Division. The few remaining men of the MTC were assigned to a new unit, the Mountain Training Group (MTG), charged with instructing standard infantry divisions in mountain and winter warfare. The author mentions D-Series training at Camp Hale and rock climbing instruction at Seneca Rock, West Virginia.

p. 73: Photos of early motorized toboggans in use.

Chapter 10 - To the Front

p. 80: In December 1944, the division embarked by sea to Naples, Italy. Most of the ski and mountain gear the division had trained with was left at home. A few patrols were carried out on skis in January 1945. A patrol up Monte Spigalino was intended to learn if the mountain could be used as a route of attack on Riva Ridge.

p. 81: Photo of Cragg Gilbert (misspelled "Craig"), Lt. Don Traynor and Dick Johnson of the 86th I&R Platoon gearing up for a ski patrol.

p. 82a: Photo of a weasel towing five men of the 86th I&R Platoon to their patrol area near Abetone.

p. 82b: Photo of Monte Spigalino ski patrol underway on a snow covered trail, viewed from above.

p. 83: Photo of Lt. Traynor's patrol starting up Monte Spigalino, connected to Riva Ridge.

Chapter 11 - From Riva Ridge to Lake Garda

p. 84: Between February 18 and the beginning of March, 1945, the 10th captured Riva Ridge, Monte Belvedere, Monte Della Torraccia, and Monte della Spe. On April 14, the Allied spring offensive began. In 114 days of combat the 10th suffered 992 killed and 4,154 wounded. On May 2, word arrived that all German troops in Italy had surrendered.

p. 97: Photo of Walter Prager winning a 10th Mountain Division slalom on the Grossglockner in Austria on June 24, 1945.

Chapter 12 - The Legacy of the 10th

p. 100: Following World War II, the army decided not to maintain an alpine combat division. The long, specialized training required for such a force was a key obstacle. The most significant long-term military contribution of the 10th may have been the lessons learned about cold weather training and equipment for standard infantry divisions. After the war, 10th veterans played key roles in the development of downhill skiing in the United States.

p. 101: Photo of Monty Atwater, U.S. Forest Service Snow Ranger, at Alta, Utah.

p. 102: Photo of Nelson Bennett carrying a folding toboggan, probably when he headed the Sun Valley ski patrol after the war. Bennett later became general manager of White Pass, Washington.

p. 111: Photo of ski movie maker John Jay during his service in the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment on Mt Rainier.

p. 112: Photo of Ed Link near Mt Rainier in summer. "After the war he collaborated in developing Crystal Mountain, Washington with Roe Duke Watson."

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Last Updated: Mon Jul 18 22:06:36 PDT 2005